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Neuroimage. 2014 Oct 15;100:106-11. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.05.080. Epub 2014 Jun 10.

Syntax gradually segregates from semantics in the developing brain.

Author information

1
Department of Neuropsychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Stephanstraße 1a, 04103 Leipzig, Germany. Electronic address: skeide@cbs.mpg.de.
2
Department of Neuropsychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Stephanstraße 1a, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.

Abstract

An essential computational component of the human language faculty is syntax as it regulates how words are combined into sentences. Although its neuroanatomical basis is well-specified in adults, its emergence in the maturing brain is not yet understood. Using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in a cross-sectional design, we discovered, that in contrast to what is known about adults 3-to-4- and 6-to-7-year-old children do not process syntax independently from semantics at the neural level already before these two types of information are integrated for the interpretation of a sentence. It is not until the end of the 10th year of life that children show a neural selectivity for syntax, segregated and gradually independent from semantics, in the left inferior frontal cortex as in the adult brain. Our results indicate that it takes until early adolescence for the domain-specific selectivity of syntax within the language network to develop.

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